"Girl Scouts is for everyone," says Cindy Badger, leader of Troop 49 in Salt Lake City. She is explaining why she enjoys this volunteer job. As she speaks she simultaneously helps seven fourth-graders total up cookie sales and tries to keep two sons and the dog out of the meeting room.
Any girl, regardless of race, religion or family circumstances, may join a Scout troop. "They just register at their elementary school in the fall," Badger explains. "That's what I like about it - everyone is invited."When I was young I always wanted to be a Girl Scout, but there was never a troop in my neighborhood."
So now, in the neighborhood near Uintah Elementary School, Badger makes sure other youngsters have the opportunity she missed.
Her troop is all excited about cookies today. This was the first year they were old enough to sell cookies, and together they sold more than 1,000 boxes. (The 4,000 Utah Girl Scouts sell an average of 199 boxes each - the highest average in the nation.)
One member of Troop 49 sold more than 500 boxes, earning herself a free trip to camp. Everyone sold more than the 25 boxes she'd need to earn a badge for her sash. The girls applaud each other enthusiastically as each announces her totals.
"The girls get cookie credits for each box they sell," says Badger. "They can earn sweatshirts, beach towels, lots of things. And of course camp fees."
"Would you rather go to horseback riding camp or canoeing camp?" the girls ask each other. "Both," they decide. Badger explains they are referring to the two residential camps the Utah Girl Council owns and operates: Trefoil Ranch in Provo Canyon and Camp Cloud Rim near Park City.
Badger says the Utah Girl Scout Council receives a portion of the profits on each box of cookies sold; more than 70 percent of their funding comes through cookies. The troop gets 25 cents for each box its members sell. That money ensures that every girl, regardless of her family's ability to pay, can participate in Scouting activities.
"This means we can all take the baby-sitting class at St. Mark's Hospital, girls," says Badger. Other projects the girls have enjoyed this year include skating, making a cross-stitch bookmark, and learning about history for their Local Lore Badge.
From April 3 to 17, Girl Scouts will be delivering the cookies to customers who ordered them. Some troops will order extra boxes and sell them at booths in malls and grocery stores. For booth locations, call the Utah Girl Scout Council at 486-7145, after April 1.
Girl Scout Week
Shortly after he started the Boy Scouts in 1907, English Army officer Lord Robert Baden-Powell had girls wanting to join. So he and his sister Agnes began the Girl Guides in 1909.
Juliette Gordon Low brought the fun of Scouting to American girls and renamed the group "Girl Scouts." She held the first troop meeting in her home in Savannah, Ga., on March 12, 1912.
This year, Scouts throughout the United States will celebrate Girl Scout Week March 12-19.